COLUMBUS - Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick, an Ottawa Hills Democrat, has ruled out a 2004 election challenge to Republican Chief Justice Thomas Moyer.
And the Democrats leading vote-getter for the court in 2002, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Janet Burnside, won t try again so soon, leaving the party in search of high-profile candidates.
So far, three hopefuls have interviewed for the party s endorsements for high court next year, when there will be four seats on the ballot. All three want to run for either the seat to be vacated by retiring Justice Francis Sweeney, a Cleveland Democrat, or the seat of Justice Terrence O Donnell, a recently appointed Cleveland Republican.
Candidates appear reluctant to challenge entrenched Republican incumbents Chief Justice Moyer and Justice Paul Pfeifer.
Republicans have already endorsed their current seat holders along with 6th District Court of Appeals Judge Judith Lanzinger of Toledo for the fourth seat.
Complicating matters is the fact that Justice O Donnell and Judge Lanzinger are both circulating nominating petitions for two seats, the Sweeney seat and the one now held by Justice O Donnell.
Brian Hicks, a consultant working on both campaigns, said Justice O Donnell may run instead for the full six-year Sweeney term rather than his current seat, which has just three years left in its term.
At stake is the court s current 4-3 philosophical divide, believed to have taken a conservative shift with last year s election of Republican Justice Maureen O Connor. Republicans outnumber Democrats 5-2 on the court, but Justice Pfeifer has often voted with Democrats on issues involving insurance, labor, tort reform, and school funding.
Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Nancy Fuerst and Canton-based appellate Judge Scott Gwin are both vying for the open Sweeney seat. Warren-based appellate Judge William O Neill wants to challenge Justice O Donnell, who has yet to win a statewide campaign.
Justice Resnick, who defeated then-Judge O Donnell to win re-election in 2000, told Chief Justice Moyer earlier this month that, despite rumors to the contrary, she would not challenge him.
“I wouldn t consider it for personal reasons,” she said. “This isn t the right time to run for chief justice.”
Judge Burnside, a virtual unknown statewide last year, took many by surprise by running a more competitive race against incumbent Republican Justice Evelyn Stratton than the party favorite, Hamilton County Municipal Judge Tim Black, did for the open seat won by then-Lt. Gov. O Connor.